Manager Carlo Ancelotti has rose to the defence of Real Madrid’s front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo while insisting he will stick with the club’s traditional 4:3:3 formation.
Ancelotti’s men suffered their fifth La Liga defeat at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday and slipped up in the race for the Spanish title, allowing rivals Barcelona to overtake them at the top of the table with their humbling of Rayo Vallecano a day after.
The Los Merengues take a two-goal advantage into Tuesday’s Uefa Champions League last 16 return leg match at home to Schalke 04, but have managed just one win in three matches- same as their Bundesliga guests- since their victory in Gelsenkirchen on Feb. 18.
“We are labouring too long with the ball, we’re spending too long on the ball in midfield and we’re not moving it about quick enough,” the Italian tactician said of his team’s problems in his press conference at the Estadion Santiago Bernebeu on Monday.
“Our movement and distribution has to be quicker and we’re not making the most of the quality of our forwards. After that, the movement of our front three needs to adapt so that we can get the ball forward quicker.
“[After the match in Bilbao] I tried to give my opinion to my players. They understood it and I think we all know the problem we have. Every match is a good opportunity to fix it and improve.”
Ancelotti is not nursing any thought of tweaking his frontline trio of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, popularly referred to as the BBC, despite growing criticism.
The BBC have witnessed their lowest level of effectiveness in recent times as they presently share a total of 15 goals between them in 2015- a stark contrast to the 57 goals contributed by all three players in 28 games between August and December 2014.
“While they are working well together, nothing will change because they have given so much to this team. I have total faith in them, there is no doubt at all about that,” Ancelotti reiterated.
Welshman Bale has scored only three goals in 2015 and heads into Tuesday’s reverse with an eight-game scoring drought. France international Benzema has five goals in the calendar year, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s seven (two of these from spot kicks) is deemed very unusual. The Ballon d’Or holder currently shares the top of the La Liga goal-scorers’ chart with Lionel Messi on 30 goals having allowed the Argentine to better his turnover by 12 more goals.
“They have suffered a slump in form but not all three of them. The team hasn’t been helping the forwards as much as they should,” Ancelotti said.
He added: “I think Bale is happy with what he is doing. He understands perfectly and his figures will improve.”
There has been suggestion that Germany international, Toni Kroos, having featured in all Real matches so far in the league and in Europe, should be afforded an off, but Ancelotti insists that “the idea that he’s been playing too much isn’t true”. He is however worried about the fact that he is a booking away from suspension.
Modric will play
While James Rodriguez is yet to return from a broken metatarsal, fans of the European champions have one more course for relief following confirmation that Luka Modric, who has not featured since 16 November, will play a part against Schalke tomorrow.
Like the Croatian midfielder, German World Cup winner, Sami Khedira, who also has not tasted first-team action for the same period, has resumed training.
The 55-year-old gave his team news, saying: [Martin] Ødegaard won’t be in the starting lineup tomorrow but he is doing very well and keeps on improving. [Sami] Khedira and [Luka] Modrić will be in the squad and will play some minutes.
“Modric will start on the bench. I’ll give him a 30-minute run-out in the second half. Both are important players that can help us at the end of the season.”
The game against the Germans has come too early for defender Sergio Ramos who sustained a hamstring injury against Sevilla on 4 February.
“Sergio Ramos will be in the selection for Sunday’s [La Liga] match [against Levante],” he concluded.